Located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240m, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district where the two ghats ranges meet. Nature has been generous with this region, which is by far the most beautiful in the state. Apart from coffee and tea plantations, trees like confiers, eucalptus, pine and wattle dot the hillside in Udhagamandalam and its encirons. Summer temperature is rarely higher than 25°c with a minimum of 10°c and winter is are distinctly cooler with a high of 21°c and a low 5°c. Curiously enough, this slice of paradise remained unknown to the great southern dynasties and it took the British to discover it in the early 1800s. They were, however, not the first inhabitants of this land as a tribe called Todas had been living there long before the British came, claiming that the Nilgiris had been their home since time immemorial. But the credit for modernising Udhagamandalam and making it accessible goes to the British who constructed the first railway line in the area and made it the summer capital of the Madras Presidency.
Ooty with smaller hill stations of Coonoor – 19 kms and Kothagiri 31 kms from Ooty are the other hill stations of this district. Nilgiri is India’s first biosphere. It has been declared as one of the 14 ‘hotspots’ of the world because of its unique bio-diversity. Nilgiri presents a truly breath taking kaleidoscope of visual treats and soul stirring experience.
Ooty is situated deep within the Nilagiri hills (which can be literally translated as The Blue Mountains). It is unknown whether this name arises from the blue smoky haze given off by the eucalyptus trees that cover the area or from the kurunji flower, which blooms every twelve years giving the slopes a bluish tinge. Nilgiris in general was ruled by Ganga kings and later by Hoysala kings, particularly Vishnuvardhana who captured Wynad and Nilgiri area during the 11th century. Tippu Sultan was the first to extend his border by constructing a hideout cave like structure.
Doddabetta Peak: It is the highest peak (2,623 m) in the Nilgiris, about 10 km from Ooty. It lies at the junction of the Western and Eastern Ghats and offers beautiful vistas of the Nilgiri Hill ranges. It is surrounded by dense sholas. One can have a panoramic view of the landscape through the TTDC telescope. TTDC restaurant caters the needs of tourists.
Pykara is a river located 19 km from Ooty. The Pykara is considered very sacred by the Todas. The Pykara river rises at Mukurthi peak. It passes through hilly tract, generally keeping to North and turns to West after reaching the Plateau’s edge. The river has a dam and power plant. The river flows through a series of cascades; and the last two falls of 55 meters and 61 meters are known as Pykara falls. The falls are approximately 6 km from the bridge on the main road. There is a forest rest House at Pykara. A boat house by the Pykara falls and Dam is added attractions to the tourists. Pykara boasts of well protected fenced Sholas, Toda settlements, undistributed grassy meadows and also a good wildlife habitat. The Pykara Dam, Pykara falls and the reservoir attracts many tourists. Being one of the oldest plants in south India, the Pykara station still functions, generating about 60 megawatts. The first unit of 6.65 MW was commissioned in October 1932.
Pine forest: Situated between Ooty and Thalakunda, this tourist destination is featured in many movies. It is a small downhill region where pine trees are arranged in an orderly fashion. The waters of Kamaraj-Sagar Dam are visible from the bottom of the hill.
Wenlock Downs: This is a grassland area typical of the original bioscape of the Nilgiris. It has gently undulating hills and is often compared with areas in the British isles such as the Yorkshire Dales. This is a popular film shooting area, particularly two areas situated approximately six and nine miles (14 km) out of Ooty on the main Ooty to Pykara road (also known as Mysore Road). These locations are accordingly named “Sixth Mile” and “Ninth Mile”.
Kamaraj Sagar Dam (also known as Sandynalla reservoir) is located at a distance of 10 km from the Ooty bus stand. It is a picnic spot and a film shooting spot on the slopes of the Wenlock Downs. The various tourist activities the dam include fishing and studying nature and environment.
Mudumalai National Park, now also declared a Tiger Reserve, lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains), in Nilgiri District. Mudumalai, which means ‘first hills’, is one of the first wildlife sanctuaries established in India. The sanctuary is divided into 5 ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. Here one can often spot herds of endangered Indian elephants, vulnerable Gaur, and Chital. The sanctuary is a haven for Bengal Tigers and Indian Leopards and other threatened species. There are at least 266 species of birds in the sanctuary, including critically endangered species like the Indian White-rumped Vulture and the long-billed vulture. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi)), including all of Mudumalai National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
Mukurthi National Park is a 78.46 km² protected area located in the south-eastern corner of the Nilgiris Plateau west of Ooty. The park was created to protect its Keystone species, the Nilgiri Tahr. The park is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, India’s first International Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km2), including all of Mukurthi National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
Needle hill viewpoint: Situated between Gudalur and Pykara.
Frog Hill Viewpoint: It got its name as hill looks like a frog sitting on slopes of mountains. This view can be found while from Pykara to Gudalur.
Parsons Valley Reservoir: This is the primary water source for the town and is mainly in a reserved forest and is thus largely off-limits to visitors.
Emerald Lake: This lake is near the town of the same name. There is a viewpoint near the dam. The rest of the area is mainly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors.
Avalanche Lake: Adjacent to Emerald Lake, this picturesque lake is mainly situated in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors
Porthimund Lake: This is mostly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors. Shooting of the blockbuster Tamil movie Roja was done here.
Upper Bhavani: This lake is in the Mukurthi National Park and largely off-limits to visitors.